James Marcia’s Identity Statuses

James Marcia is a Canadian developmental psychologist who expanded on Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. His research and writings have largely focused on adolescent development. His work was to identify and classify processes that adolescents go through when they experience identity crises. The four processes that Marcia defined are:


In this state, an adolescent may blindly accept whatever ideology or values system that has been given to them from their parents or family members. This indicates a “pseudo-identity” that is too rigid or fixed to meet life’s future crises (Slavin).

Identity Diffusion

This state is a struggle of identity that is marked by no real progress in deciding an occupation or ideology of one’s own. There is no commitment to anything or ability to develop one’s sense of self. An individual may have had an identity crisis, but it would not have been resolved (Slavin).


This state marks little real commitment to an ideology or occupation but is also a state of experimentation. It also marks an ongoing identity crisis and the examination of alternate life choices (Slavin).

Identity Achievement

This state is the state of clarity and of development of one’s identity. It marks a commitment to an ideology or more direction in terms of occupational goals. These decisions have been autonomously made and developed by a formed ego identity.

So, how does this apply to teaching adolescents? Well, as Marcia said, the successful resolution of industry and identity leaves one with the skills and confidence they will need to pursue a career or vocational direction (Marcia). Though Marcia did not believe that the identity process began and ended in adolescence, it is clear that he felt that this state was a vulnerable state for a person. As instructors, this means we need to be providing a safe learning environment where adolescents can not only learn but interact, meet their need for intimacy and explore identity.


11 thoughts on “James Marcia’s Identity Statuses

  1. Nu Bevers says:

    Everything is very open with a very clear description of the issues. It was really informative. Your website is very helpful. Many thanks for sharing!

  2. canaan cn sibanda says:

    quite an informative explanation of Marcia’s theory. Handy to teachers of adolescents and young adults

  3. Princess says:

    Thank you for creating this blog of yours! It really helped me a lot. ^_^
    It will surely guide us future teachers in our encounter with adolescents.
    Thank you so much!

  4. This is the first website that I stumbled upon that answered my questions on Marcia’s theory with simplicity. Thank you

  5. gershon wolf says:

    If I understand Marcia’s theory correctly, 2 of the 4 states in which teens “reside” leave the big issue of career direction unresolved, and a third one (identity foreclosure) “bottles up” teens’ real desires. Given that, it shouldn’t be surprising that many teens perform “unevenly” in high school, should it? After all, they face their future from a position of weakiness and indecision. What’s surprising, perhaps, is that so many perform so well in school!

  6. thank you very much to the person who made this blog…… your blog gave me a very good information,,,,….. thanks again…^_^…

  7. Sam says:

    Great article. Succinct and informative. I think this also can be applied to any kind of identity crisis such as quarterlife and midlife crisis. Been helpful for me. Thanks!

  8. garten eden says:

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